|Click here for the NIJ Archive|
Issue No. 202. - December 8, 2000.
1. Bosnia nad Herzegovina: BLACKMAILING THE PEOPLE
By Stojan Obradovic
2. FRY/Serbia: SERBIA NEEDS A TOTAL TURNAROUND
By Ivica Juric
3. Azerbaijan: BEGINNING OF THE END FOR THE CURRENT
By Hikmet Hadjy-Zadeh
4. Special addition : NEW AT
The national parties of the Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks retained complete
political domination in early November at the general elections in Bosnia
and Herzegovina. Although their relative victory is not as overwhelming
as before, they will remain an important element in the new government.
Many expected that the positive political changes in Croatia at the beginning
of 2000 and the recent fall of Milosevic's regime in Serbia would influence
the situation in Bosnia, and that perhaps the national parties that have
ruled Bosnia for the past decade would finally be dethroned. But considering
the trend of positive changes in the region, the election results were
disappointing. What lies behind it? Why are these nationalistic politics,
which have caused Bosnia so much grief for the past ten years and which
experts say hold no future for Bosnia and Herzegovina, so vital?
We talked about it with don Ivo Markovic, a Bosnian Croat theologist and Franciscan monk from Sarajevo, who is deeply involved in many activities and projects related to refugee return, tolerance and the general restoration of society. He is the founder of the organization for inter-religious dialogue and action "Eye To Eye" which aims to build a pluralistic society in Bosnia. He publicly criticizes nationalist politics and their proponents, national parties, claiming they hold on to power only by systematically sowing permanent fear in their own people. At the last elections, Brother Ivo Markovic says, this was especially true for the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), the national party of the Croatian people living in Bosnia. He regretfully adds that Catholic Church also supported such politics among Bosnian Croats.
Markovic: Both the leaders of the Catholic Church in Bosnia and priests in the field supported HDZ. I think the reasons the Catholic Church supports the Bosnian HDZ are sad: it is a complex mixture of national sentiment and loyalty, but the other reason is simple: money. Religious workers easily turn into nationalist workers. They are lured by their blood and soil, that is, by instinct. The passion of being part of a group is a dominant part of national sentiment, and inertia can easily drag us there. This is why religious people are offended by such a betrayal of the Church's mission. The best proof of this betrayal is the Church's willingness to be used by the HDZ, sometimes even stooping to the point of bribery. HDZ representatives toured Croatian parishes and directly asked whether priests were willing to support the HDZ in exchange for money. Offers ranged from tens to hundreds of thousands of DEM. Some refused, some accepted. Now there are claims that the money was meant to go to refugees. Degraded refugees returning home after a decade of HDZ lies are now finding they are pawns in a game in which their fate is at stake. Many Bosnian priests are extremely poor and live together with the people in really difficult conditions, so they need the help. But it's sad when that aid is offered just before the elections and tied to political goals, and they are accepting it or falling for it. By supporting nationalists, the church is shutting its doors to the people who have other convictions and who are in dire need of her.
Q: Is anyone in the Bosnian Catholic Church discussing the future of the Croatian people and the role and responsibility of the HDZ for the situation Bosnian Croats are in? Are there circles within the Church that criticize official support of the HDZ and how much influence it exercises?
A. The Bosnian Catholic Church articulated its own interests and those of Croatian Catholics in Bosnia for some time in an entirely responsible way. It clearly stood up against the HDZ's idea of dividing Bosnia and its inclusion in Croatia, since this couldn't be done without war and ethnic cleansing, and is contrary to the Christian belief in the possibility of tolerance and the survival of the Church and its heritage in any place in the world. However, the majority of the Catholic Church in the areas of Bosnia that have a Croatian majority (western Herzegovina) later accepted HDZ's concept and still support it, secretly hoping for the creation of the third Croatian entity in Bosnia and this entity's eventual inclusion into Croatia. Despite the cataclysm Croatian Catholics in Bosnia experienced owing primarily to HDZ's policy, some priests decided to support that dangerous policy, I think out of inertia, a wartime identification with their own group, political manipulations, and so on. At the moment we have the following situation: most priests are more or less inclined to agree with HDZ's ideas. Some are indecisive, and a small group remain faithful to the Church's original attitude of accepting the state of B-H, believing in equality and tolerance in a pluralistic Bosnia and Herzegovina. But I think this last group is the most determined; they have the clearest opinions, and the support of responsible persons on all sides in Bosnia.
Q: Although many were displeased with election results in Bosnia and victory of nationalist parties, one should still take notice that in general their victory wasn't so overwhelming as before. Yet, it seems that Croatian nationalists came out with best results. Why is that?
A: I was saying before the elections that support for nationalist parties like HDZ, SDS and SDA would be a kind of meter showing how far the insanity, fear and loss of individuality among the Bosnian people has progressed. On the one hand, it is an indicator of how much Bosnian Croats suffered and were manipulated by "human migration," and on the other, how much the HDZ, with the help of the Church, instilled into Croats a totalitarian reflex, a fear of consciousness and a faith in passion. This is especially humiliating since it results from church activities. Faith should result in consciousness and reason, an escape from myths and a recognition of power of the Spirit and faith that we can responsibly control our lives. Many responsible Croats have been working for years to help the Croatian people choose and decide like adults, with freedom and consciousness. However, just before the last elections the HDZ began to use primitive and aggressive techniques to manufacture fear. Thanks to the international representatives' laxity and the Church's approving attitude, the HDZ managed to frighten and delude Croats into giving the party their votes again.
Q. You are one of the people who sounded the alarm that national extremists from Croatia are now being exported into Bosnia. How great is their influence?
A. Nationalists cannot solve the pressing issues of the country; they are preoccupied with group identity, not with problems of the whole social dynamic. Issues of national identity end in narcissism and selfishness. Every nationalism necessarily robs its own people. Instead of bringing democratization and prosperity, HDZ gets mixed up in robbery and the mafia. After lsoing their positions in Croatia, HDZ mobsters are looking for support in western Herzegovina [an area of Bosnia with a Croatian majority]. Their only aim is to prevent legal mechanisms from gaining a firmer ground in Bosnia since they thrive on their absence. The same is happening in the Serb Republic. Even worse, those Serbian and Croatian mobsters are collaborating.
Q: Another theory is that Bosnia and Herzegovina could become a haven for defeated extremists from Croatia and Serbia, which could produce new nationalist "explosions" in B-H. How much is that danger real?
A: Nationalists rule by creating irrationality and fanaticism using fear and biological defense reflexes. If that fire spreads, it will be difficult to restrain it. So to let them have their way is very risky, since they could start igniting fear through terrorism in order to survive. The international representatives are the ones who should control it. However, they did such a lousy job with the elections that you'd be justified in asking them to resign. They let HDZ and SDS act in such an aggressive and violent manner that it was humiliating to the people, and in direct violation of human rights.
Q. Now that the nationalist government has retained its power at the polls, there is some talk again that Bosnia and Herzegovina has no future, that division is the only realistic option.
A. That's true--these ideas spread like wildfire given the chance.
They have open proponents, and even more covert supporters who still can't
fully hide them when they talk.
It's clear that many Croats and Serbs would like to live in the same country as their people, but it's also clear that Bosnia cannot be divided; it has too many traditions and national groups living in every area of the country. But there are many Croats and Serbs who find their identity in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The idea of dividing Bosnia is irresponsible. It would certainly mean another war. Herzegovina and the Serb Republic must come to their senses. There is no third entity, and the Serb Republic must be integrated into Bosnia. Such a division is not acceptable at the time when Europe, not to mention the world as a whole, is uniting.
Q. How much do people in Bosnia and Herzegovina really feel the political changes and the new Croatian government?
A. I think the influence from Croatia hasn't been as strong as we expected. We thought that the influence of the new Croatian policy would be felt more strongly. It was partly true, especially in bilateral relations, but HDZ's push to save itself pulled more weight. HDZ preserved its influence, and now we can only expect that party to obstruct democracy and the legal state by scaring the people. HDZ is now using the "return of Communism" in Croatia as a straw man for Bosnian Croats. Whether the new Croatian policy will win the confidence of Bosnian Croats depends on the radical opposition and on exposing the HDZ's criminal nature, as well as on long-term politics and patience.
Q. While the political elite in Bosnia and Herzegovina remains separated ethnically, how do common people live, to what extent are they ready to embrace tolerance?
A: The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is better at a more basic level than in the politics created by nationalists. Living, travel, shopping, refugee return, illness, solidarity, help, and so on are constantly connecting people. I have information from various communities where refugees visit their own houses, where they are guests of the new tenants, of people who share the same or similar burden of suffering. However, because of a nationalistic climate, people deny it in their own national communities so as not to be called traitors. I know, for example, that Serbs visit returning Croats and Bosniaks and vice versa, but they hide it from their fellow countrymen. Nationalists are hiding information about returnees of other nationalities, so that makes it harder for humanitarian organizations to help them. In Bosnia and Herzegovina corruption starts at the top. There is no future or any normal life with HDZ, SDS and SDA. They are formally enemies, but they collaborate in robbery and in their clinging to power. Recently Izetbegovic explicitly said that he was prepared to cooperate with HDZ and SDS. It may seem shocking, but they have been cooperating since the war. They cannot solve any problems--on the contrary, they have been deepening divisions in the country, but they cooperate to sustain themselves and rule their people. They have been politically blackmailing their people. We can develop a normal country with laws, tolerance, and economic progress only after we remove the influence of nationalist parties in politics and society.
Q: What are religious organizations doing to improve the situation in Bosnia, to bring normalization and tolerance?
A: Unfortunately, religious organizations are more interested in themselves and their own protection. The inter-religious council in Bosnia, which is made up of the most prominent leaders of religious communities, should be very important in creating trust, and should be the most positive initiator in dialogue and peace. However, it seems they mostly work on nipping inter-religion initiatives in the bud, and preventing that practice from gaining a foothold. The power of religion lies in a community of believers, where people live, socialize and pray. In that sense, the most important people are Catholic, orthodox and Moslem priests. And there are not enough peaceful, dialogue-provoking, ecumenical initiatives. The civil sector is much more active in seeking peace, while initiatives from religious communities are negligable. Also, there are not many organization involved with inter-religious cooperation.
Q: You have criticised the role and behavior of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, claiming it was ineffective in eliminating "nationalist mafias". What can it do in that area?
A: International representatives decide the rules of the game in Bosnia, based on human rights. They have been letting nationalist media into Bosnia, have been letting Croatia and Serbia brainwash people for years. They also acted irresponsibly in helping the nationalists before last elections. Posters and talks at nationalist rallies were literally a Nazification of Bosnian Croats and Serbs. Jelavic addressed Croats like a man spurring dogs against other dogs. It is disappointing that this didn't bother those defending the dignity of human beings and society out of a responsibility to God.
FRY/Serbia: SERBIA NEEDS A TOTAL TURNAROUND
An interview with Vesna Pesic By Ivica Juric
Dr. Vesna Pesic has been a symbol of opposition to Milosevic's regime for years. Although she headed Civil Alliance, a rather minor political party compared to parties led by her opposition partners such as Vuk Draskovic and Zoran Djindjic, she was always clear and unequivocal in opposing and distancing herself from the nationalist war policy, which gave her special political significance and authority. Although she has stepped down from the leadership of her party, Vesna Pesic has remained at the head of her Center for Anti-war Actions, where she is involved with the painful and long-term process of developing a democratic society in Serbia, thus confirming that she never expected her political involvement to be just a method of paving her way to power.
Q. You are a proponent of the theory that Serbia needs to completely break with Milosevic's regime. How do you propose such a break occur in regards to the internal organization of the government, and what does it mean to you in light of the changes in Serbia's political goals? How can the social consciousness in Serbia be changed? Some have even said a total "de-Nazification" is needed.
A. I think right now the most important thing is clean up the
country's police structure, which has grown out of proportion, and to cut
military spending. The police and military structures should be placed
under the complete control of Parliament. That is another key problem and
priority - giving power back to Parliament. I think we should create a
new constitution that would provide us with a transparent structure of
Regarding the second part of your question, I think nothing special has to be changed in the Serbian public consciousness. If we talk about the Serbian expansionist war policy, which aimed to occupy foreign territories, Croatian among others, then I have to say that policy has been completely defeated. Conquering it was more efficient and more important than changing it. Of course, there is the task of exposing and condemning that policy, but the key issue is now over - that policy has been completely defeated, in a true historical sense, and no serious political view can support it or defend it anymore, in any way.
Q. Do you think that there is any chance that the past policy could be revived?
A. There is just a small chance regarding the Kosovo issue, and only if the international community falls into trap of changing Serbia'a borders by granting Kosovo independence. Then the revival of the former policy would be given new opportunity, in that Serbia would be compensated by getting what is now the Serb Republic. ButI don't think that will happen since it would mean the destruction of the whole foundation of the peace that the international community worked so hard on.
Q. But how do you think present status of Kosovo will be resolved?
A. On a formal level, Kosovo won't be granted independence, but it will have such a high level of autonomy that it will in fact only formally be part of Serbian territory. More time has to pass before this idea becomes a reality.
Q. About the change of public consciousness?
A. Well, I think that de-Nazification, the process that has been applied in post-nazi Germany, is still too harsh a term for what needs to be done in Serbia. You know that de-Nazification in Germany meant that millions of Germans that had been members of the National-Socialist party were expelled from public life. Of course, Serbia is facing the serious process of exposing Milosevic's policy and crimes that were committed. Regarding chauvinism and extremist nationalism in Serbia, I think that power has diminished, as was shown in the last elections. However, shrinking that nationalism down to normal European dimensions will be a long-term process. An important role in its pacification will be played by the process of normalization and international cooperation among Serbia and its neighboring countries. These processes will lower tensions and isolate extremism, which will thus remain at the margins of society and politics.
Q. Could Milosevic end up in Hague? Kostunica rejected it at first, then started evading the issue. Anyway, there are no clear signals that the government is ready for that move.
A. I think Kostunica will change his attitude. He won't allow new sanctions to be imposed against Serbia. It would inhibit the possibility of economic revival and progress, all just because Kostunica refused to turn Milosevic over to the Hague Tribunal. The people are more important than Milosevic, and if he decided to stand up for Milosevic, against the people, it would create a situation and an atmosphere that we have already witnessed - that the international community is our enemy and that we would irrationally defend our Serbian cause at any cost. To defend someone who has allegedly committed war crimes is completely nonsensical. If Mr. Milosevic is innocent, then nobody will construct anything against him in Hague. The same goes for Mladic, Karadzic and others. I would be the first to throw a stone at the present new government if it became clear that Milosevic and his supporters were more important to them than interests of the people, if the new politicians would discredit us again, and try to present actual or alleged criminals as war heroes. I think not even Kostunica denies that crimes were committed, and that those responsible for them have to be punished.
Q. Regarding political changes in Serbia, we usually hear that voters haven't voted in favor of a certain person, but against someone else. What does this mean for the further political development of Serbia?
A. During the last elections Serbia was in a watershed situation. For us it meant to be or not to be. Our chance for a future was decided at the elections. Serbia is impoverished, degraded, destroyed. The removal of Milosevic from power was literally an issue of life and death in Serbia. That is why the elections cannot be subjected to the usual analytical theories, asking what kind of programs were offered, how real they were, did people vote only "against" and not "for" and so on. In a way, we were blackmailed. We had two choices - Milosevic leaves, or Serbia really sinks to the bottom and is left without a chance, without a future. And we got around that nightmare, that vampire dream. We saw it like a difficult removal of a malignant brain tumor. That was the most important thing. That was the prerequisite for starting something in the first place. And that was confirmed when international community embraced Serbia immediately after election results.
Q. There are many objections that international community provided its help and support blindly, without asking for results, that there is no positive confirmation of how Serbian politics will develop or how cooperative it will be.
A: I don't know what people expected from Kostunica. He isn't a revolutionary change, he's just an evolutionary stage, but that's how things are. THe international community set a very clear goal before democratic Serbia - topple Milosevic. In exchange, they said they were ready to help Serbia. This was done at the elections, and it is natural to expect the international community to meet its end of the bargain and provide expedient help and support to Serbia, which is in a very difficult situation. That elementary help and normalization wasn't based on the condition of who comes after Milosevic. One shouldn't expect that Serbian policy to be ideal now. But then again, whose is? What is certain is that Serbia at the last elections voted against anextremist policy, against a policy that confronted and isolated it from international community.
Q: How will political scene in Serbia further develop, what will the Serbian republican elections bring?
A: They are important in finishing a political process that started at the federal elections with Kostunica's victory. The real political power is not on a federal, but a republican level. Complete political reconstruction in Serbia can only start after the republican elections, where we're expecting a decisive victory for the former Serbian opposition united in DOS. Afterwards, one can expect DOS to break apart. It is an ad hoc coalition created to change the government, a democratic front, a movement. It is an amalgamate of twenty political parties of varied influence and various political programs. Therefore, it would be bad for the democratic scene if this coalition remained together. What we can now predict is that there will be two strong political groups coming out of DOS. One, led by Zoran Djindjic's Democratic Party, will occupy the left center whereas the right center will probably go to Vojislav Kostunica. Anyhow, I think there is still work to be done commonly - that is, the political reconstruction of Serbia, which will end in a year, year and a half. After that there will probably be new elections where parties will participate individually or by the usual political alliances.
Q. You have already said how you see some of the future developments in Kosovo. Serbia also needs to make its relations clear with Montenegro. What do you think about the outcome, and could these processes lead to the disintegration of the country? If so, what further problems could arise?
A. The Kosovo issue isn't new. It's not even exclusively a result of Milosevic's regime. The problems with Kosovo date from long ago. Serbs and Albanians have never thought of each other as partners, as equals. There is a huge ethnic gap that was never bridged. And I think we are now seeing a kind of natural resolution. It will perhaps take an unusual form, some kind of postmodern political form, but that form will create a more normal situation than the one we have today. Regarding Montenegro, I think the conflict between it and Serbia is completely unnecessary. The possible separation of Montenegro is up to the current Montenegrin leaders, who want independence. That idea was blown out of proportion during Milosevic's regime, and even the Serbian opposition supported it simply because it was against Milosevic. But now it's become clear that the real issue wasn't opposing Milosevic but holding to power in Montenegro. I think it is not about the resolution of a national issue or equality but about the Montenegrin political elite's wish to get its own state. In Montenegro itself there is much more division about that issue than Montenegrin leaders want to see or admit. Montenegrin independence should be decided by popular vote with a significant majority margin in order to avoid divisions, since this is a crucial issue for every country. At the moment the idea of independence doesn't have such support in Montenegro, and there could be an internal rupture about the issue that could destabilize Montenegro. But it's up to Montenegro to decide on that question, and if it decides to proclaim independence, Serbia will do nothing to stop it.
Q. The Croatian public is demanding an apology for the war, aggression, and the victims before normalizing their relations with Serbia. What do you think about this?
A. An apology like that isn't a formality, and if it came because somebody demanded it would be meaningless. What does it mean if somebody says after being pressured or asked - well, here, I apologize. This apology must follow internal honest need, and an awareness of the evil that was done. The country needs to cleanse itself internally and deal with itts actions before issuing an honest apology. When this happens, an apology come as a spontaneous, honest, living consciousness of all that has happened, not just as a polite statement. That regards all parties that were involved in the past war, of course, for as much as each individual party was responsible for and guilty of. But I think it is even more important for Serbian politics to give clear a indication of how it intends to further normalize its relations with its neighbors, with Croatia, to say that it will have no more territorial pretensions, to say it will protect minorities, respect human rights, etc. All in all, that it will contribute to cooperation and meeting the necessary conditions to clear up all the open issues.
The elections to Azerbaijan's Milli Majlis on November 5, 2000, didn't receive as much international press coverage as the battle for the US presidency, but it's fair to say that in terms of drama and national importance they outdo the American elections by a long shot. The official election results--that is, the usual governing-party victory and the formation of a one-party parliament--shouldn't fool observers. The government has actually undergone its first ruinous defeat in seven years. It's worth noting that despite the opposition's complaints of serious falsifications in the last elections, the voters did in fact throw their weight behind the existing regime, believing in competence and methods "proven" in Soviet times. In these elections, however, the Azerbaijani public supported the democrats for the first time, and that fact was impossible to cover up. The day after the elections, The Economist and most other publications that sent reporters to Baku announced that Musavat had won.
A Short Primer On the Elections to Milli Majlis
Milli Majlis is composed of 125 representatives. One hundred representatives are elected from single member constituencies and 25 from multiple member districts. Elections can be considered valid if 25 percent of voters participate, and elections can be pronounced invalid if they occur with irregularities in 25 percent of electoral districts. Parties and electoral blocs can receive a mandate only if their ticket collects at least 6 percent of the vote. There are 100 single-mandate districts and 4,865 polling places in the country. According to official data, there are over 4.3 million voters in the country, but unofficially that number may be as much as one-and-a-half times smaller, since it's considered that 1.5 million people have left the country in search of work. The central electoral commission must announce the election results within ten days of the election's start. In the single-mandate districts, over 400 candidates were registered, and over 400 opposition candidates were denied registration.
Before the Battle
A month before the elections the Musavat party was clearly emerging as the main competitor against New Azerbaijan (NA), the party in power for the last seven years. Musavat leader Isa Gambar and NA leader Ilham Aliev ran ruthless election campaigns in what was essentially a presidential election, that is, an election that would determine the fate of the government. It was also obvious that Ilham Aliev was quickly losing ground to Gambar--who appeared on television looking ever more confident and open-- and that it would be almost impossible to protect the 7-year governing party from an all-around crisis. Musavat's main slogans were "A Battle Against Corruption," "Fundamental Changes Or the Country's Ruin" and demands for the return of "land occupied by Armenia," while the NA built its campaign on "Competence, National Stability and Armistice with Armenia." On November 1st almost all the country's dissident intellectuals and artists as well as twelve small-party leaders endorsed Musavat, telling voters that Musavat and its leader Isa Gambar represented the vortex of a crystallizing democratic force that began with the People's Front of Azerbaijan in 1989-92.
In surveys published a week before the elections, public opinion in
Baku supported Musavat over New Azerbaijan for the first time in many years.
In total, almost 50 percent of those surveyed supported right-wing opposition
parties; this survey data later corresponded to election results in districts
that fell to the opposition.
According to the law, one-third of the members of the election commission (IzBirKommissia) at the polls represented opposition parties, and observers from all parliamentary parties were allowed to be present. In addition, more than 300 people were invited to observe the election process, including representatives of the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the USA, and the countries of the former Soviet Union.
Elections and Falsifications
Neither the presence of a large number of observers nor the efforts of the native population inspired any hope that the government wouldn't try to cheat if it saw Parliament slipping from its fingers. But the reality surpassed even the saddest predictions. From the first moment of the elections, news began to circulate that the election commission--with the help of the police--had separated certain observers from the polls and were trying to throw packets of false ballots into the ballot boxes. The president of the OSCE Bureau of Human Rights and the American ambassador's wife were even thrown out of their assigned polling places in Baku and Sumqayit. But relatively speaking, the elections went fairly smoothly until 7 p.m., when the votes were meant to be counted. Then police descended on the polling areas and began to forcibly remove not only observers, but also opposition members of the election commission. Those who resisted were escorted to the police station. No one witnessed the ballot counting, and of course the commission refused to show the official tally forms to the observers standing outside. Police failed to remove those who didn't "belong" only in a third of the polling areas; people there resisted, and the noise was deafening. In those polling places the opposition managed to rip the official tallies out of the hands of the government representatives. The next day they showed these results to journalists, who then announced that Musavat had won the elections, taking 30 percent of the vote, with New Azerbaijan coming in second with 22 percent, National Independence third with 18 percent, the People's Front with 12 percent, and the Liberals with 8 percent. From these tallies it was evident that only 30 percent of the voting public participated in the elections.
At 11:30 p.m. on election day, New Azerbaijan's party secretary was already announcing on state television that 67 percent of voters had gone to the polls, of whom 80 percent had cast their ballots for New Azerbaijan. It's unclear why the government felt the need send teams to the polling places to falsify votes and remove observers if it intended to televise whatever results it pleased that evening, results based on no documentation whatsoever. From that moment, not the angry accusations from Western observers about "unprecedented violations", nor the remaining official tallies in the opposition's hands proving their victory, nor announcements from the US government and the Council of Europe about the "need to correct all the violations" could influece the election results; the deed was done.
The Battle After the Battle
But only the government thought things were over. The results caused an unexpected emotional shock, not so much for the opposition, who had long been resisting the government, but rather for the remaining population--the silent majority.
"I've only felt this humiliated twice," said popular film actor Rasim
Balaev, "On January 20, 1990, during the Soviet Army's bloody entry into
Baku, and now, after these elections."
Consciously or subconsciously voters felt the government had taken their last hope for change from them, that they would now have to live for another five years in permanent crisis, without work, without fuel or electricity.
While the opposition parties gathered witnesses for a court case and talk about joint protest actions, the whole country was seized by unprecedented and spontaneous unrest. Starting November 8, unplanned meetings meetings, often accompanied by clashes with the police, began to spring up in Baku, Sabirabad, Imisli, and several other population centers. A major disturbance occurred November 18 in ªeki, where nearly 7000 residents, protesting against their impoverished economic situation and against the falsifications at the elections, ignored appeals from local Musavat activists and began to riot, chasing away the local police. The protesters dispersed only when the Minister of Internal Affairs was brought in, and 300 people were arrested and taken into custody.
Yet another government intrigue emerged on November 6: The election commission announced that besides New Azerbaijan, only the People's Front, led by Ali Kerimovym, had passed the 6 percent barrier into Parliament, and that neither Musavat nore National Independence had won even 5 percent of the vote. A few days later the government identified the parties that it would try to keep in its pocket as a nominal opposition: Parliament would offer six seats to the People's Front, two seats to the dwarfed Communist party, and three seats to Citizens' Solidarity. It also announced that according to "corrected data" New Azerbaijan had collected not 80, but 62.46 percent of the vote.
Even this manuever couldn't break up the united opposition. Both the People's Front and Citizens' Solidarity joined Musavat, National Independence and the Liberal and Democratic parties in demanding that the election results be canceled. All the parties signed a joint agreement November 14 stating that they do not recognize the election results, refuse to participate in Parliament, and will lead protests throughout the nation. Only the Communists announced that they would join Parliament.
On November 8, in the midst of the post-election battle, a new development arose that many expected, but no one spoke aloud: Despite anger about the government's falsifications on the part of the official representatives of the US and Western Europe, Azerbaijan was invited, along with Armenia, to join the Council of Europe. In connection with this, Azerbaijan was asked to correct the election's irregularities and to improve legislation in the areas of elections and human rights. Aliev answered these demands by cancelling the results in 11 one-mandate districts owing to the infractions that had occurred there. The opposition decided not to participate in any of these supplemental elections.
So democracy with Western support turned out to be a vain hope. After the Council of Europe's invitation, diplomats from the US and European Union countries began to visit opposition leaders, pleading with them not to provoke the situation in the country. Azerbaijan is too strategically important to the West, and so Western democrats turned a little less democratic.
In spite of a huge number of complaints, the election commission confirmed the results on November 15. A week later, the Constitutional Court did the same. Musavat and and the National Party of Independence produced their official election tallies before the Appellate Court, but their appeals were denied.
Thus the chance for a lawful (and peaceful) solution to the crisis was wasted. There remained only the option of mass protests, but with a questionable chance of success. The country had the potential for explosive actions, but not for a long-term nation-wide campaign of civil disobedience. The affair could only end in local disturbances followed by repression, so the opposition decided not to rock the boat.
Parliament held its first meeting on November 25, which only members of New Azerbaijan (ex-Communists) and Communists (neo-Communists) attended. Only one member of Musavat, the well-known poet Vagif Samedoglu (elected by majoritarian district), took part in the meeting, and he was immediately thrown out of his party.
Unexpectedly, former speaker for Parliament Murtuz Aleskerov was reelected to that post, instead of the president's son, Ilham Aliev.
Regarding the election results and the opposition's refusal of posts in Parliament, influential politicial and head presidential aide Ramiz Mehtev told reporters with a smile that he was satisfied with the elections, and that the oppositions boycott of Parliament didn't worry him, he was certain they would come round. Mehtev's mood was elevated, things in the government had always worked out before, and he was sure he knew the opposition better than they knew themselves.
Although observers don't share Mehtev's optimism, the situation in the country has changed at its core. The most important changes have occurred in the hearts and minds of the silent majority--their patience has worn thin. It would be right to think of the current situation in the country as the beginning of the end for the current regime.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Azerbaijan Elects Parliamentary Speaker
Bulgaria To Start Secondary School Euro-Integration Studies
Uzbek Border Defense Mines Endanger Kyrgyz Residents
Mongolian Cult of Personality Honored With Monument
Polish Nurses Protest Low Wages
Romanian Society Uniting Against Tudor
Federal Troops Continue Operation Cleanup Chechnya
God Save the Tax Police
Slovenia Approves A New Government
Kostunica Tells Serbs To Calm Down Over Presevo
OUR TAKE: Dracula and His Brother: On Tudor and Zhirinovsky
ROMANIAN ELECTION SPECIAL FEATURE: Banking On a Nationalist
by Mihai Constantin and Sabina Fati
"This country could only be governed through the mouth of a
machine gun," flamboyant nationalist and presidential contender
Corneliu Vadim Tudor, 51, said in 1998. That statement is still
prominent in the minds of many Romanians: some with a sense of
fear and trepidation, others with admiration. Could presidential
hopeful Vadim Tudor be Romania's demagogue in waiting?
FEATURE: The Cool Vote
by Mihai Constantin
He walks the walk and he talks the talk--at least as far as
many of Romania's young people are concerned. Presidential
candidate Corneliu Vadim Tudor is seen as sleek, suave, and hip,
and the younger generation in particular finds his bluntness
entertaining, if not soothing.
ELECTION DAY REPORTAGE: HED
by Martin Ehl
The sad, drawn-out melody of an accordian floats through
Franceza street as the shabby, old center of the Romanian capital
falls silent. In the raw weather, five young men listen to the
musician, who soon moves on to the next house. Helplessness and
aimlessness is in the air, as the Romanian electorate, in search
of a savior, cast their ballots.
FEATURE: Is Berisha Up To His Old Tricks?
by Altin Raxhimi
Violence escalated in Albania on 28 November when two people
died in a riot in the lawless northeastern part of the country.
Dozens of opposition Democratic Party (PD) supporters were
detained, including Sali Berisha, the PD chairman and former
Albanian president. Recent disturbances following disputed local
elections in Albania have marked a worrying return to violence.
FEATURE: New Moon Eclipse
by Nabi Abdullaev
After lying in a coma for four days, notorious clan leader
and Dagestani parliamentarian Magomed Khachilaev died on 20
November after being shot by a disgruntled, former bodyguard in
his home. Khachilaev and his clan affected the political
processes in Dagestan like no one else. And his biography serves
as an excellent illustration of the development of Russia's new
regional political elite.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Letter Links Journalist's Murder to KGB
The disappearance and violent death of Russian Public
Television (ORT) cameraman Dmitry Zavadsky was shocking enough in
and of itself. But the story has taken an even darker twist with
the arrival of an anonymous letter, sent to Belarus' independent
news agency Belapan, in which the author claims to have evidence
that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka ordered
Zavadsky's assassination. The following is the full text of the
anonymous letter sent to the independent news agency Belapan.